Movie review

21 Grams
Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, Naomi Watts
Director : Alejandro González Iñárritu

21 GramsThe second feature from director Alejandro González Iñárritu, and follow-up to his acclaimed debut Amores Perros, 21 Grams - a reference to the supposed amount of weight a person loses at the exact moment of death - is an intricately woven tale of life, death, love and revenge.

When Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts) loses her husband and her two daughters to a hit and run accident, her life is torn to shreds. Also torn to shreds is the life of Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro), the driver responsible for the accident. Jordan is a God fearing man, devoted to the church and determined to raise his family with the same values he holds dear. However, the blows that life continue to deal him test his faith to the limit, and the accident proves to be the final straw.
    Paul Rivers (Sean Penn) is dying from heart disease, his only hope of survival being a heart transplant. The call he has been waiting for finally comes - a heart has become available. The transplant appears successful, and as he starts to recover his thoughts turn to whose heart it is that he has received. With the help of a private detective, he manages to find out, as well as the circumstances of the man's death - a hit and run accident.
    Rivers' inescapable interest in the life of the man who's heart is now keeping him alive compels him to trace the man's widow, Cristina Peck, and his obsession gradually draws the two of them into a fatalistic relationship, one that slowly evolves into a mission to exact revenge.

As with Amores Perros, the time-frame of 21 Grams flits backwards and forwards, something which is no mean feat and could easily result in nothing more than confusion. In the hands of Alejandro González Iñárritu, however, it is handled masterfully. There are three or four threads of the story being thrown at the viewer at the same time, but this merely leads to a heightened sense of intrigue rather than confusion, and lends the film a pace which is pitch-perfect.
    The story, whilst on the face of it somewhat hammy, is extremely compelling, slowly drawing you into its complex web of conflicts and emotions.
    The most outstanding aspects of 21 Grams though are the performances. Penn once again delivers another superbly understated performance, Watts is great as the object of his intense affections, and Del Toro's depiction of the brooding, hapless Jordan is truly remarkable. Also worthy of note is Clea DuVall, best known for her role in The Faculty, who's appearance here, though brief, is nonetheless striking and certainly stands up next to the three central performances.

21 Grams is an intense, affecting and absorbing film, wonderfully constructed and handled by Alejandro González Iñárritu and full of first class performances. Film making at its finest . . .

:: Philip Goodfellow

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